The Old Man and His Cane

Nancy Bryans, Brunswick Forest

The old man whistled a happy tune on his daily postprandial strolls up and down the sidewalk in front of his home. The first time anyone remembered his not whistling was the day his beloved wife died. Broken-hearted, he could not whistle, and his family wondered if he would ever whistle again.

In his twilight years, the old man walked with a cane, was overweight – as round as Santa – and lived to eat. He munched and crunched his way through the day, leaving a trail of candy, cookie, and cracker crumbs in his wake. During his wife’s lifetime, he and his family never dined in public due to her finicky nature, but now he liked to treat them to dinner. Their restaurant of choice was a seafood place overlooking a meandering river where they enjoyed seasonal fresh fish, oysters, and crab cakes accompanied by shrimp cocktail, tossed salad, hush puppies, and dessert. He always ordered the Captain’s Platter piled high with food.   Following their delicious meals, his son and wife walked outdoors along the pier to look at boats. The old man and his grandchildren walked into a room full of slot machines. In those days, gambling was legal in their area, drawing huge crowds.

The family arrived early at the restaurant to avoid waiting in line, but by the time they finished eating, customers stood in line at the iconic slot machines. The old man divvied out nickels and dimes to his grandchildren, teaching them the value of money and the consequences of gambling. He directed them to try their luck after losing gamblers walked away, saying the odds might be favorable. His grandchildren wagered the notorious slots would cough up their loot, but oftentimes the thieving machines gobbled up their coins instead. Before the tussles ended, the old man handed each grandchild two quarters, telling them they could keep the quarters or take another chance to win the jackpot. He usually wrestled enough silver from the infamous slot machines to more than pay for dinner. Those one-armed bandits were happy to see the old man and his cane wobble to the car with jiggling coins and giggling grandchildren, who traveled home to feed their piggy banks.

The family’s lucky streak occasionally had unintended consequences. At church one

Sunday, it was announced there would be a raffle for one of the priest’s puppies. The old man’s grandchildren told him how cute the puppies were, knowing he liked dogs. Instead of buying a ticket for himself, he gave his grandchildren money to take chances in their names. The following Sunday, the winner was announced from the pulpit. The old man’s youngest granddaughter won, and on Monday the puppy was to be picked up at the rectory. The young girl was excited to have her very own puppy, but instead her father came home with a very large Hershey’s chocolate bar. She learned her father and grandfather discussed the girl’s prize, deciding the last thing their family needed was another dog, especially a Chesapeake Bay retriever. The disappointed child glared at her father and decided she hated chocolate.

Hoping to restore harmony to his household, the old man thought it was an opportune time to treat his family to dinner at their favorite restaurant. After a pleasurable evening gormandizing and wrestling with the one-armed bandits, the old man and his cane sauntered to  the car. His contented, satiated family wore smiles of surprise, listening to him jingle jackpot coins in his pockets and once again whistle a happy tune.